Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Would anyone have the balls?

Posted by Possum Comitatus on October 25, 2007


Me in Crikey the other day here:


If you were a political party that was behind in the polls for what seems like an eternity, had trouble finding traction and had been outmanoeuvred on the issue management of the day for 10 months straight by your opposition – well things would be looking grim. You would probably find yourself in the position where the widespread expectations of loss would be fuelling low levels of morale in the organisation, to the point where it would be delivering poor numbers of campaign volunteers to do the legwork at the coalface.

Such widespread expectations of loss would probably even result in some of your most dependable, local campaign donors suddenly finding better things to do with their money.

But most disturbing of all if you happened to be such a political party, would be the lack of a simple narrative that your hand fed chooks in the media could credibly use to counter such a disastrous cycle of events and perceptions, allowing the gloom to perpetuate.

So if you were such a party – what would you do?

One of the first things that most political parties do when faced with such a situation is to break out the kero and the matches and indulge in a bit of good old fashioned self-immolation and retribution – we’ve seen attempts at that sort of behaviour in the not too distant past.

But for us Crikey Pollytics readers, a far more sophisticated demographic altogether; we would probably look to do something a little more constructive.

One of the first things I’d do if I were such a political party is sacrifice a medium sized advertising campaign and reallocate that money, in some appropriately deniable form, back into the membership and get them to place bets with bookmakers on marginal seats and those not so marginal seats that look to be in danger of falling.

To reinforce the artificial reality, I would hand feed some selective, fabricated “internal” polling numbers to members of the Fourth Estate that I was confident would regurgitate those figures in toto to a wider public.

In one simple, relatively low cost stroke not only would the results, if appropriately timed, targeted and executed to the thinner individual seat markets, suddenly provide a comeback narrative for the teachers pets in the gallery, replete with quotable internal polling backed by betting market prices, but it would also generate its own short term momentum including a window of opportunity which could be used to launch a large policy initiative; an initiative that could attempt to convert some of that simulated support into actual support.

Such an artificial pump-priming of momentum would, of course, melt away like a spring frost if the policy initiative failed to deliver votes, and the betting markets would soon sweep away the impact of the cunning plan by the simple weight of money over time if the simulated support didn’t transmute into something more tangible.

But if your goal was simply to generate some short term momentum from which to launch, say, a larger political campaign of some description – it wouldn’t be a bad plan.

I wonder if any political party would ever have the balls to try it on?

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17 Responses to “Would anyone have the balls?”

  1. pligg.com said

    Would anyone have the balls? « Possums Pollytics

    If you were a political party that was behind in the polls for what seems like an eternity, had trouble finding traction and had been outmanoeuvred on the issue management of the day for 10 months straight by your opposition – well things would be look…

  2. lurker said

    That’s pretty audacious – or desperate, depending on your point of view. Have you seen any strange movements in individual seats in the betting market? I’ve seen some dodgy “internal polling” reported on PB.

  3. Thunderpaw said

    Glad you’re on our side Poss.

  4. lazyaussie said

    I did suggest this tactic for speculation on the polling day announcement.

  5. George said

    Poss, if a poltical party was to do this, would it be technically legal under our electoral system?

  6. Greensborough Growler said

    Or they could do the right thing by the nation and try some Viagara Eye drops.

    That way they could go to the room of mirrors have a long hard look at themselves.

  7. Possum Comitatus said

    I dont know whether it is technically legal or not, but since there are so many ways it could be done, the law (if it exists) would be easy to get around. Simple things like putting the word out to bet on certain seats rather than donate to the campaign kitty for instance.

    Funny Greeny 🙂

  8. paul said

    possum you are the best i know with figures
    how do the numbers/prices stack up on sporting book they have labour at 73% and the coalition at 27% of money held looks like they are running the market at about 105 % seems to me the odds are out of whack with the money they are holding

  9. paul said

    sorry sportingbet

  10. disenfranchised Gippslander said

    Possum, you have a devious mind, but not so warped as the betting market in the national result, and, say, Bennelong last week.
    have you bounced this idea off Simon Jackman? I think he has a higher regard for the mathematical purity of the market than you (or I).
    The dramatic shortening of the Alp in the national result,( back down to about $1.40, from ~$1.70 on last Friday) would suggest that the war chest may be depleting or at least not keeping up with the joyous punters who are looking for a nearly gilt edged 60% return ! Bennelong is also shortening, but not so dramatically.. Perhaps JWH is as happy shovelling money overto ALP voting punters giving them even more reason to vote against him.

  11. JM said

    Hmmm, some observations:-

    Firstly, as background, the betting pool doesn’t appear to be very large, eg. SportingBet said about a month ago they had only $1M laid on the election in total, and they were expecting up to $2M before the election. That’s not very much, and could be easily influenced. Easier would be the individual seat markets as these are only a fraction of that $1M. In a further indication of thinness, a number of people have said they haven’t been able to get the advertised odds for bets of reasonable size.

    Secondly, there is arbitrage in the betting markets – which just shouldn’t happen. Simon Jackman has been running posts for weeks pointing out dozens of disparities between the national bet and that in individual seats. I’m very surprised actually that Simon has simply accepted these, when I would expect someone with regard for the “higher purity of the market” would smelling a rat by now.

    Thirdly, the market has spiked savagely in favor of the government on a few occasions in ways that are not borne out by either events or subsequent polls. Since punters vote, I’d expect their beliefs to broadly track those of the opinion polls in general. There are times when this doesn’t happen, and these seem to go in the same direction each time.

    So, motive (taken as read), means and opportunity (thin markets), evidence (separation between polls and markets, arbitrage and one-way spikes). Not enough to convict, or even point the finger, but suspicious.

  12. KC said


    I thought it would be more likely for the Exclusive ones to be laying the bets, they outlaid $370,000 last time for Howard in campaign donations.

    Have also seen the young lib bloggers spruiking the idea of laying money on Howard if you support labor so that you either win either way, ie win money on Howard or see labor elected.

  13. Graeme said

    It’d be quite legal, subject to any state level restrictions on betting on elections per se.

    There’s no real restrictions on how political money is spent.

    Used to be laws in some places equating any bet on an election to electoral bribery: but that’s because in v.small electorates a wager against onesself was a way of disguising a bribe/encouraging a constituent to vote for you.

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